Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Pics of my Soon-to-be Old Neighborhood

Before I say goodbye to the "Miracle Mile" forever, I'd like to commemorate my time here by pointing out the bizarreness of the fact that my first apartment was across from the Hollywood Reporter and my second apartment was across from its blood enemy, Variety.

Both remain standing.

(click to enlarge)
Copyright Joe Skilton

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Wait, wasn't that last month? Actually, it's the best and worst time for me at work. I read TV and film scripts for a living, and create character descriptions for the roles being cast so that agents, managers and actors know what to expect during auditions.

January through April is pilot season, the busiest time of the year. This is when all the networks buy pilots for new series, with an eye toward debuting them in the fall or next January. Actors from New York fly out to L.A. to maximize their chances and there's a general sense of excitement and momentum going into the "upfronts," the big demonstrations from networks to advertisers in which they trot out their new programming slates.

The Good:
I love getting the inside scoop on the most buzzed-about new shows.

The Bad:
I can't tell anyone about them!

The Good:
We're insanely busy.

The Bad:
We're insanely busy. It's not like everything else stops for pilot season, it's just added to it, so we're still reading regular episodes of established shows, as well as film scripts.

The Good:
I can play "Who Should They Cast?" in my head and see if I'm right.

The Bad:
Sometimes the pilot scripts that I love the most don't make it to air, and if it ends on a cliffhanger, I NEVER GET TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. I still remember a pilot I read in 2006 that didn't get a series pick-up, and I STILL think it would've been a great show, and I STILL wonder where they were gonna go with it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Rituals

Everybody got their somethin'. I'm a creature of habit. If any of my little morning rituals get interrupted, I have a hard time getting back to writing.

My usual Monday-Friday schedule goes something like this:

8 am - Wake up, contemplate how sleepy I am. Say to myself, "Are you a writer, or not?" Take a deep breath and get up.

8:10 - Sit at computer, coffee mug in hand. Open files, get to work.

8:45 - Consider checking email; fight it. Keep writing.

9:30 - Wonder if anything I just wrote is worth saving.

10:00 - Check email and/or blog something and choke down breakfast

10:30 - Head out to work until 7pm. (It's pilot season right now, where every network orders sample episodes of potential new series for the fall, so we're swamped.)

After work I can occasionally revise pages but more often I'm too beat to write new stuff.

So that's on a good day.

If we're out of coffee filters, I'll improvise with paper towels. If we're out of coffee, I go into a coma. Not much writing gets done. And it's not even the caffeine, it's the ritual. The smell and taste, the feeling that now I can start writing.

If my husband decides to get up too, I sort of freeze at the computer and lose my flow. He's a night owl and I'm a reformed morning person but our apartment is really small and I need a bit of space to write.

If I check email, Facebook, or go online to research before 10 am, that's usually it for me as well; there's almost no going back to writing.

Right now I'm revising one project and setting another aside for a few weeks so I can view it more objectively, but looking over my rules I'm kind of amazed that I got so much done last year, considering how particular I am. Maybe the Writers' Retreat my friends and I are planning for March will help me toughen up a little.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

These are the Elephants in my Neighborhood, In my Neighborhood, In my Neighborhoooood

It looks like we may have pulled off the townhome short sale. It was a cliffhanger up till the very end, waiting for close of escrow during a storm on Friday night. Joe and I walked around on Sunday taking photos* of our current neighborhood since it was such a beautiful day. I'll be posting some of the best ones throughout the month until we move.

I live near LACMA (L.A. County Museum of Art) and the Tar Pits, site of every California child's school field trip. These elephants are about two blocks from my current apartment.

(click to enlarge)

* And by that I mean he took all the photos

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Correction: Conan is Not Becoming Letterman

On Thursday I blogged that Conan O'Brien's frustrating experiences with NBC (which yanked his show away after 7 months, having promised him the program 5 years ago) were literally turning him into Letterman (who's had plenty of his own reasons to be bitter at NBC). But after watching Conan's farewell show on Friday I have to change my mind on that.

His goodbye was gracious and, okay YEAH I'm gonna SAY IT, inspirational. I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically expressed genuine gratitude for working at NBC the past 17 years and getting to host The Tonight Show for any length of time at all (which is every comedian's dream); he seemed overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of support he'd received at rallies and online; and he capped it off with this: "All I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."

Ironically, his ratings for this past week, when he was allowed to do whatever he wanted and be as creative and crazy as possible, jumped by at least 50%, rendering NBC's reason for canceling the show completely moot.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Tonight Show With... Everyone!

I must admit the past two weeks of late night talk show wars have been endlessly entertaining and hilarious to me. Conan's never been funnier (or more bitter -- you can almost see him turning into Letterman right before your eyes) and Letterman's never been so gleeful. Jay (who's nice-guy image has taken a hit) has placed a toe or two into the fray, Jimmy Kimmel has been openly confrontational to Jay's face, and Craig Ferguson has been largely silent (though, like his boss, he can't seem to resist getting a few digs in).

Part of my enjoyment stems from the fact that it's been nice to focus on something frivolous given everything else that's going on in the world.

To add to my all-late-night, all-the-time saturation, I've been reading Craig Ferguson's memoir "American On Purpose," and I think it's possible that he's funnier than all the aforementioned hosts combined. Or maybe it's that his show comes on at 12:35 a.m., at which point I've lost whatever tenuous grasp I had on my sanity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oh, GoodReads. Didja Have to Do That?

I really enjoy GoodReads, the site that lets you keep track of what you've read and see what your friends are reading. (Emphasis on friends.)

But the other day I got an alert in my email inbox that "someone" had recommended a book for me. The someone? A fairly famous author who wanted me to know about her new book, since I'd liked her previous book. The PR team must have automatically emailed everyone who gave the book more than 1 star.

I guess it was inevitable that GoodReads would go the MySpace/Facebook/Gmail/Everything Else route and start spamming me with ads, but I was still disappointed. I love getting recommendations from people I actually know, but I don't want to be inundated by spam bots who search the database for strangers and send them alerts, especially when the alerts used to be legitimate and represent genuine communication.

I know authors need to use every method they can to market themselves and get the word out about their books. Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to send out alerts to thousands of people on GoodReads.

Still, this particular method had all the subtlety of an anvil.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Like it Rainy

We spent the long weekend in San Diego visiting my sister and her husband, dodging the rain storms and trying to stay dry. I felt bad because the last time they visited from Wisconsin it also rained the whole week! We were lucky enough to spend Sunday and Monday night at the Hotel del Coronado, which has been around since 1888 and is probably most famous as the setting for the Marilyn Monroe comedy "Some Like it Hot."

Although the rain was a bit of a disappointment, it forced us to explore museums we wouldn't have bothered with on a sunny day, so that was pretty cool, and we all had a wonderful time.

Also, at a gas station on the drive back, I saw a candy I'd never heard of before: Squigglents. It's possible I'm misspelling them. I already regret not buying any, whatever they were.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Best Book-to-TV Adaptation?

I'm not sure why the "Dexter" books by Jeff Lindsay comfort me. Serial killers and dismemberment really shouldn't be calm nighttime reading. Maybe it's because I associate the books with marathon viewings of the TV show on DVD, curled up on the couch with my husband and a bottle of wine. We won't get to Season 4 until it's released on Netflix but I wanted to relive some of the earlier stories and see how the books compared, so I borrowed the first two from a friend.

I genuinely enjoy seeing what got changed from the books in order to create the TV adaptation (not much in book 1, and then a lot in book 2, so far). How did the screenwriters decide which characters to keep, which to expand, which arcs to explore, and which details to change completely? You've gotta figure they want the show to last as long as possible, so they can't have people figure Dexter out too quickly.

Reading the books is kind of like getting a director's cut, bonus material or alternate universe shot right into your brain. If the TV show is your first experience of the story and characters, the source material becomes supplemental, which is... kinda weird, actually.

Maybe I should look into the "Sookie Stackhouse" series by Charlaine Harris next for a True Blood fix while waiting for Season 2 on DVD. Somehow I don't think Bill yelling "Sookaaahhh" will be as entertaining on paper, though ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Thoughts on the Conan O'Brien / Jay Leno Snafu

The Good News:

It turns out that scripted 1-hour dramas aren't dead; ergo, TV isn't dead. This makes me happy.

The Bad News:

It turns out that primetime variety shows ARE dead; ergo fewer forums for magicians to get some love. Not like I'm keeping track of that sort of thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taking a Break From All Your Worries Sure Could Help A Lot

Yes, I just quoted the theme from Cheers. It's been that kind of day. And no, I'm not at a bar. Although supposedly Tom Bergin's House of Irish Coffee, which is just down the road, was the basis for the bar in Cheers.

What got me thinking about taking a break was an article in the latest issue of Writer magazine. In it, Arthur Plotnik (author of Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style) lists 7 productive ways to take a break from writing.

My two favorites are #4 "Visit a place where distinctive things are labeled and fill a notebook with... fresh metaphors" and #7 "Wander the library."

Who's with me?

Monday, January 11, 2010


On Friday I was tagged by Natalie for this writing meme and I planned on answering all the questions today. That was before I stayed up super late this weekend reading "Catching Fire" (book #2 in Suzanne Collins' amazing Hunger Games series); I'm feeling pretty beat, so I'll start with the first 5 questions for now:

1) What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

Revisions on an older story, and a first draft of a YA project. First thing I wrote that I still have? Probably stories I wrote in Junior High, or "radio shows" on cassette I recorded with my sister before that. And I swear we're not that old.

2) Write poetry?

Only if my character does.

3) Angsty poetry?

See #2

4) Favorite genre of writing?

Usually dramas with an element of mystery, and I also love coming of age stories.

5) Most annoying character you've ever created?

I could never choose. They're all annoying in their own special ways ;)

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Simpsons" 450th Episode

The Simpsons, currently in Season 20 (!), airs its 450th episode this Sunday. To celebrate, I recently read the book "Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History" by John Ortved which has shed new light on the show, and I'm curious if it'll change my perceptions when I watch now.

Although I haven't been a regular viewer for a while, Anne Hathaway is the latest guest voice/songstress and I've got a soft spot for musical episodes, so I'm definitely tuning in this weekend.

All-time best Simpson song: "Marge vs. the Monorail" (written by Conan O'Brien), although "Streetcar Named Marge," the "Planet of the Apes" musical and the Qwiki-mart one are close behind.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Library Nightmare

The other night I dreamt that I had gone to the library during a break from work to pick up my books on hold, and the librarian for whatever reason wouldn't give them to me. Instead, she handed me a blue ticket that said they'd be ready in half an hour. I frantically tried to explain that I didn't HAVE half an hour -- I had to be back at work, but she wouldn't budge.

Suddenly I'm in the Starbucks next door to the library, which isn't even close to reality; both libraries that I frequent are stand-alones or by a post office, but there IS a kind of creepy Starbucks* near my office and that's the one I dreamed about. So I'm in line at the Starbucks and the librarian shows up, dragging a metal cart filled with books -- the books I want! -- and she STILL WON'T GIVE THEM TO ME. She rolled them in with her to taunt me, and also so they wouldn't be out of her sight, and I wanted to just grab them off the cart but I couldn't. I was filled with anxiety and impotent rage when I woke up.

This is not the first time I've had anxiety about suddenly being banned from libraries.

* It's creepy because there is a flashing neon fish tank/sea world depicted in the office space above, including a pink octopus that wiggles. It's completely bizarre, but The Ames will back me up that it exists, and there is something wrong about it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Life as a House

Last night I slept like a log; a log stuffed with sleeping pills. I've been having insomnia a few times a week for the last six months -- which is about how long my husband and I have been trying to buy a townhome as a short sale. (Yeah, short sale is a cruel misnomer. It doesn't indicate the length of time of the sale, it indicates that you've shorted the bank on the price, which means you can get an amazing deal IF you're willing to wait. And wait. And just for the heck of it, wait.) Once this process is over -- assuming that it ever will be -- I'll be an expert on short sales. Hopefully I'll also have a home. But it's not over yet.

Anyway, this whole process reminds me of what people go through during the Agent Search. In this metaphor, the writer is both the buyer and the house. With me so far? Making the agent both the seller and the lender. Have I gone off the rails?

It's like this: As the house (which is the writer's product), the writer must provide a solid foundation; not too much of a fixer-upper, but willing to update the paint, windows, lights or flooring to make the house more presentable. As the buyer, the writer must have good credit (a referral perhaps, or a list of credentials and previous writing clips), and the ability to make steady progress on her mortgage (career) by writing checks each month (working steadily and keeping deadlines).

As the seller, an agent must pick out a good house to work with, go over each aspect of the product (novel) and help it shine, and then present it in the best light to the people most likely to fall in love with it. As the lender, an agent must do a thorough check on the buyer -- are they reliable? Will they default? Did they sign all the paperwork correctly (research and write a proper query)?

These may be the nutty ramblings of a sleep-deprived woman, but when they came to me, they made perfect sense.

Monday, January 4, 2010

If You Wait Long Enough, They Usually Come Back

So I DVR'd an episode of General Hospital last week, for the first time since college, although not because James Franco is sporadically appearing as a character named... wait for it... "Franco," who may be a serial killer (?) (At least, that's what I gleaned from his brief, sinister cameo. I could be horribly off-base on this point.)

Nope. The reason I taped the show is because the original Lucky is back! Terms like "the original so-and-so" are pretty much confined to the soap opera world, where recasts occur every couple years as a matter of course, like snakes shedding their skin. Soap actors like to stretch their wings on prime-time or in movies, but if you give 'em a decade or so, they usually return, even if they've had success on the outside.

Despite my time away from the program, I recognized several familiar faces.  Jax, Sonny, Jason, Luke and Liz are all still wandering around as though in a time warp, proving that you can basically dip back into any soap at any point in your life and feel like you never left.

Now the problem is that I have to figure out what's happened to Lucky since I last saw him (killed in a fire), more than three actors ago. He's Luke and Laura's son, and he used to be a little shady as a teenager, running "errands" for the local mobsters by driving up to Canada and back, but now he's a cop? This doesn't seem right.

Further research may be required.